Independent candidate Merv Ritchie is running to represent Skeena-Bulkley Valley residents in the upcoming federal election. (Contributed photo)

Independent Merv Ritchie wants to give Skeena-Bulkley Valley residents their voice back

Traditional party politics ruining democratic system, Ritchie says

Independent candidate Merv Ritchie says he got into politics to shake up the central party authority forming the foundation of Canada’s current parliamentary system.

“Party candidates are really representing parties and the party leaders to the residents, whereas an independent is representing the people,” Ritchie says.

“With party candidates, you can’t have [difficult] conversations. You have to toe the party line. We need to have deep, intense conversations with context — you can’t start this conversation in the middle.”

Ritchie was born and raised in Saskatoon, Sask. and moved to B.C. when he was 15. The 60-year old lived in virtually every region of the province: the Kootenays, the Peace River region, the Gulf Islands, and throughout the Lower Mainland. Ritchie spent 14 years in the Shuswap and came to Terrace in 2006.

“If there was something I could do for northwest B.C., I would make it a world heritage site,” he says.

READ MORE: The most important issue for each of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley candidates in their own words

This isn’t Ritchie’s first jump into the realm of politics. He entered for the first time as an independent candidate in the 1994 provincial election, and ran unsuccessfully to be Terrace’s mayor in 2011.

Then six years later in 2017, he ran as a provincial candidate in the Skeena riding against current BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross and NDP candidate Bruce Bidgood under the now-defunct Land, Air and Water Party, which he founded in 2015 with the help of Tahltan elders.

During that cycle, Ritchie failed to file his party’s election financing and disclosure reports by the late filing deadline, according to Elections BC. This disqualified Ritchie from being nominated, elected or holding office as a member of the Legislative Assembly until after the next provincial election.

The ban can be nullified if a late filing penalty of $10,000 is paid, though Ritchie says the penalty is an outstanding debt not necessarily enforced by election officials. He says the late filing was because some addresses and names of donors were not collected.

“They decided not to pursue any charges or the fine against us. What we do have with the auditing firm is a debt, and we can’t even pay that debt because of the provincial government’s new election financing laws. An individual in an political party cannot raise or cannot contribute more than $1,250. Today if we were to pay, our political party would need a whole mess of people to donate.”

The party’s goal was to end government investment in the fossil fuel industry and bring women and Indigenous people to the forefront of government, a platform Ritchie says he stands by today.

For example, he argues the NDP should have done more to recognize the concerns of the Wet’suwet’en Nation prior to LNG Canada’s positive financial investment decision for their $40 billion Kitimat facility.

“Playing the role of ‘boosterism’, encouraging people to invest when the project still had hurdles was and is inappropriate and caused much grief,” he wrote in his candidate statement to Black Press Media.

Initiatives gaining steam with other political parties were also previously included in the Land, Air and Water Party’s platform years ago, he says.

“At the present moment, the NDP and the Greens are talking about free dental care. That’s part of our platform, that dental care is a health care issue and should be free for everyone. The Greens are talking about minimum income, that’s taken directly from our party platform statement published in 2017,” he says.

READ MORE: Land Air Water Party candidate hopes to drive change

It takes “a much bigger machine” to get the Land Air and Water Party into the federal election sphere, Ritchie says, though running as an independent gives him an opportunity to have complex, open conversations with lawmakers, and in turn, better represent the public.

“If we’re going to have democracy, we have to allow our representatives to represent us. Right now we don’t have that, and everyone knows it,” he says.

“Just like what we saw with John Horgan, he betrayed a bunch of people in the NDP party because they thought he was going to be against Site C and against fracking, and when he got into power, all those things went ahead. It was the same thing for Justin Trudeau, when he got into power he said he was going to promote proportional representation, Indigenous rights…and as soon as he got into office, all those things change. That’s why we need independents.”

In addition, Ritchie advocated for secret ballots across all levels of government to stall attempts to influence politicians and voters through punishment or reward, or simply, that every candidate in an election should be an independent one.

“They can’t tell the truth, and I can,” Ritchie says. “[The public] needs someone to vote for.”


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Single vehicle rollover on Highway 16 claims life of young woman, seriously injures another

The single vehicle incident occurred at Highway 16 and Hillcrest Way

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

COVID-19 cases grow to 13 at B.C. First Nation near Fort St. James

“This is very serious,” says Nak’azdli Whut’en Chief

Cullen confirmed as B.C. NDP candidate for Stikine despite party’s equity policy

Former Tahltan Central Government President Annita McPhee said the process made her feel “abused”

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

She warned her son about toxic drugs, then he was dead

Donna Bridgman’s son died at the age of 38 in Vancouver

B.C. food and beverage producers set record sales in 2019

Farmed salmon again leads international exports

Most Read